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For Separation of Church and State, vote Secular

August 15, 2010 – 10:28 pm94 Comments

By Gregory Storer and John August

Australia is the place to be.  We are a country of diversity, people from all over the world with a range of personal belief systems, moral codes and all are welcome.

We are a dynamic and thriving democracy.  It’s not perfect and it’s important that we all work together to ensure that all Australians are treated in an equal and fair way.  It’s important and incumbent upon us to check that nobody gets left behind.

When we look at the breakdown of population across Australia we find that just 0.4% reports themselves as Jewish, increasing by 5.2% from 1996 to 2001.  Looking at the Christian tradition the Pentecostal church has increased it’s membership by 11.4% in the same period, to be just 1% of the population.

We have a wide range of beliefs and trying to make sure that no one denomination has an undue influence in government is paramount to our on-going freedom in Australia.

Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd talking to an exclusively Christian audience as part of the Australian Christian Lobby’s Make It Count campaign, should be a concern for all of those not of a christian faith.  It shows a willingness of our leaders to pander to the whim of the religious right at the expense of others.  The notion that they would even consider talking to group of people, who in themselves only represent a small section of our Australian community shows how much the Christian movement in Australia can act as a political force.  And yet even they can’t agree with each other!

Prime Minister Gillard is a declared Atheist, but she is pragmatic enough to see that she needs to keep it relatively quiet; she doesn’t want to upset the Church folk.  When she spoke with Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby she clearly showed how important she sees the Christian lobby.

The Government funds a chaplaincy program worth over $222 million.  Gillard has announced further funding to allow extra chaplains to be employed.  This is a program that has been hijacked by Christian churches in a very inappropriate manner, so much so that the Australian Psychological Society has directly criticised it saying that untrained chaplains are dealing with complex issues that they have no training for.  If your child needs help at (a state) school, ask yourself, would you prefer a qualified counsellor or an Evangelical pastor to help?

When we look at education, we know that the Government does fund private and religious schools, but that funding is skewed towards church-based schools, so much so that the wealthiest schools get the most funding.  It would be much fairer to have a system of tax rebates, where if you choose to use a private school, you’ll get a rebate based on how much it costs to educate a child.  This ensures equity across the education system where all children are funded to the same amount, regardless of the type of school they attend.

In the Jewish News (Friday August 6th; p9) Michael Danby has a full page advertisement telling us how much the Labor Government has spent on helping protect Jewish schools.  This is money well spent in our current system. However, if we could truly separate religion and state, if we could really allow people to live as they like without fear, then the need for CCTV, fencing and guards would disappear.  That would be better for all Australians.  Much needed funding could then be diverted to helping protect everyone, instead of trying to put up barriers to keep us apart.

The only way to make sure we govern for all Australians is to ensure that our laws are based on equality for all, without the influence of religions of any sort.

The Secular Party firmly commits itself to freedom of religion and freedom from religion.  We understand that religion is here to stay, and believe that the separation of religion and state is fundamental to maintaining true democracy.  In achieving this, it will ensure the ongoing and improved welfare of all members of Jewish communities Australia-wide.

Gregory Storer and John August are the Secular Party candidates for Melbourne Ports and Wentworth respectively.

This article is part of a series Galus Australis is running for the 2010 Australian federal election whereby we publish articles by supporters of  various political parties.  Please contact us if you are interested in contributing.

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94 Comments »

  • frosh says:

    Hi Greg,

    Let me start by saying that I support separation of church and state.

    However, while you promise freedom of religion, as Bruce Llama (your alter ego, if I am not mistaken) you have written:

    “There should be no doubt in your mind that religion is poison. Teaching children about religion is psychological abuse, and should be stopped.”

    How would you reconcile this statement of yours with your electoral promise of freedom of religion?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    There was a very interesting discussion discussion on funding of Jewish schools some time back on this sitem with two strong opinions offered: http://galusaustralis.com/2009/07/646/time-to-abandon-the-private-school-system/.

  • Gregory says:

    The right to freedom of religion and the freedom from religion comes with responsibility. I’m free to believe or not believe. It’s not within my rights, or yours, to force those beliefs or non-belief onto anyone else. The Secular Party is about limiting religions influence on government and making sure that no one religion has an advantage over another.

    My non-belief does not entitle me to impose that on believers. That’s not secularism.

  • Nathan M says:

    I note that the author was refused coverage on this topic by the Jewish News: http://gregory.storer.com.au/?p=171

  • What makes you think that if there was full separation between Church and State, there would be no need for security at Jewish schools?

  • ariel says:

    After visiting the Secular Party website and their policy platforms, it is clear that they are using religion as a scapegoat.

    Most of their arguments display an ignorance of Judaism and the Australian Jewish community. I decided to mark them last on my ballot slip, seeing as they can’t seem to be bothered to study the realities of the situation.

  • Gregory says:

    David,

    I said if we could have people live as they like without fear there would be no need for the security. There’s a long way to go.

  • ariel says:

    Gregory,

    This aim is admirable. But it has nothing to do with secularism.

    As David implies, if people hate Jews, they’ll find a non-religious reason to do so and to attack the schools et al. (In fact most anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Jewish religious practice and is based on racial sterotypes) or the perceived political views of the victim.

  • Gregory,

    You write “However, if we could truly separate religion and state, if we could really allow people to live as they like without fear, then the need for CCTV, fencing and guards would disappear“. This looks like a logical progression to me: 1. separate religion & state -> 2. people live without fear -> 3. no need for security. What I don’t understand is how 1 leads to 2. Or perhaps I’ve misinterpreted the logic in your sentence (after all, the second clause also starts with an if)?

  • frosh says:

    Greg, here you write:

    “My non-belief does not entitle me to impose that on believers”

    How is that not contradictory with the following?

    Teaching children about religion is psychological abuse, and should be stopped.”

    Surely that “should be stopped” line is all about imposing your non-belief on believers?

  • Gregory says:

    Frosh,

    I’m not about to impose anything on anyone. People are entitled to believe as they wish.

    This is about government not supporting and financing religion, we need a level playing field, at present it’s not.

  • Gregory says:

    David,

    It’s not the government’s role to fund religious schools to pay for security cameras, guards and fences.

    Religious community need to fund that themselves, if there is no security, what would happen?

    Currently the security creates a barrier between the community and the rest of the world, the barrier can be removed, when it’s safe to do so. Government may have a role in that, and one of those roles is to separate religion and state. I’m sure there are a lot of steps between 1 and 2

  • Michael says:

    Where does the secular party stand on climate change?

  • rachsd says:

    This statement from the policy section of the Secular Party’s website clearly contravenes religious freedom: “It is the policy of the Secular Party that all forms of religious attire be prohibited in all schools.”

  • Michael says:

    It may interest Galus people that the Secular Party supports one secular state in Israel/Palestine.

    It also appears the secular party adopts the worldview of Andrew Bolt et al on Muslim immigrants.

    “The Secular Party endorses the distinction, made by Hirsi Ali, between spiritual Islam and political Islam. Islamic practices which implement Sharia law are political. It should be made clear to Muslims that the rule of law means Australian law, not Islamic law. In Islamic law it is forbidden to leave Islam. This is a violation of freedom of religion. In Islamic law women are not equal to men. The practice of this Islamic doctrine violates respect for equality between men and women. It is clear from many Islamic practices observed in Australia, that the equality of men and women is not respected.

    The Secular Party believes that it should be made clear to all immigrants and refugees who wish to settle in Australia, that Australia expects and requires that the undertakings made by migrants in their signed application forms be respected. A grant of permanent residence in Australia should be conditional on adherence to respect for Australian values.”

  • Gregory says:

    rachsd,

    No apologies there – religious attire has no public place in a secular society.

  • Gregory says:

    Michael,

    We have several policies on the website about climate change. Basically we need to reduce our carbon emission, and we would achieve that through investment in alternative energy and taxation.

  • Gregory says:

    Michael,

    While not wanting to get bogged down on discussions about Israel and the middle east, the solution is for a secular state.

  • Michael says:

    Gregory: it’s nice you don’t want to get bogged down in the issue of Israel. It’s impressive you don’t realise that for many Jews who vote on a single issue, Israel is it. If this becomes widely known, your party will be one of the most popular to be preferenced last in MP and Wenworth.

  • Gregory says:

    Michael,

    I know the importance of Israel to Jews. This is the Secular Party of Australia. Our position is the separation of religion and state. What would you like, more political rhetoric?

    When you vote, I would think your first most thought should be what’s best for you and what’s best for Australia. A government beholden to a bunch of right-wing Christians, or a Secular government that’s about equality for all Australians, regardless of their religion (or indeed non-religion)

  • Aussiebattler. says:

    Absolutely, there should be separation of church and state.

    There absolutely should also be no favoritism shown to countries who do not separate state and religion. Israel (The Jewish state) for instance.

    What’s that I hear some of you shouting – ‘Israel is a democracy.’ No it aint!

  • frosh says:

    So people would not be able to wear clothes that reflected their culture?

    Sounds more like Stalinism than Secularism.

  • Gregory says:

    Frosh,

    People should be able to wear the clothes they want. rachsd quoted the part of the policy that serves his/her purpose. As adults, go ahead and wear what you like. Rather than have me cut and paste every little snippet of Party policy, go ahead and visit the website, read the policy on religious attire.

    Secularism is nothing like Stalinism and I would have thought you’d spend some time investigating the policy before taking it at face value.

  • ariel says:

    Gregory,

    Banning religious attire in schools contradicts your platform of freedom of religion.

    Israel is a secular state as is the PLO movement secular. Both have strong religious lobbies, but that’s allowed isn’t it?

    Denying the rights of a Jewish state is like denying the rights of a Chinese state or a Japanese state.
    Again, the ignorance on this subject has made me mark Secular Party last…

  • Gregory says:

    Ariel,

    I wasn’t counting on your vote, but it’s nice to see you gave us some consideration and would prefer to see Family First over the Secular Party, but it’s ok, I’m not about to worry about it.

  • ariel says:

    Not that it’s any of your business, but Family First didn’t appear on my ballot slip…

  • Michael says:

    Gregory: I am a secularist (and atheist). But I would not vote for the secular party because it appears to have adopted the right wing xenophobia against Muslim immigrants in the name of secularism. I also think there are more pressing secular issues than the right-wing Christian lobby, whose agenda is largely countered by the Greens in my view.

    I’m not suggesting that I wouldn’t vote for your party because of its ill-informed views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which your party grossly simplifies as being about religion, despite the obvious fact that both sides were overwhelmingly secular dominated for most of the 20th century). My view is that virtually no Jewish people will vote for a party supporting one state in Palestine.

    That your party would have this in its platform but not mention it to the two electorates where it’s standing and will be of great significance indicates to me a lack of conviction in what it supposedly stands for. It could have been considered a stunt to promote what would be considered anti-Israel views in the two most Jewish electorates – but it appears the Secular party just isn’t well informed or serious about its campaigns.

  • Gregory says:

    Thanks Michael for your forthright comments. I’ll be taking those on board as we review our platform after the election.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    It seems to me what is entirely missing in this conversation is why there be should a policy of government to provide further advantage to a minority and elitist educational system (private schools)? The current funding arrangements are also shonky, based on distorted data. The problem goes back to the aid given to poor Catholic schools about 50 years ago, and like Topsy, it grew.

    Australia and particularly Victoria have one of the highest percentage of kids in private schools in the world.

    The private school industry preys on people’s insecurites and aspirations.

    Every indicator shows that the gulf between people who attend private and public schools is widening, and this reinforces inequality in our society. Why shouldn’t tax payers’ money go to support poor schools?

    I differ from the Secular Party on one issue–I have no objection to religious and cultural education streams in schools. Jewish kids should mix and be exposed to all the diversity of this society, rather than living increasingly isolated lives.

    Is that a good thing?

  • Aussiebattler. says:

    No it’s not Ariel. Chinese and Japanese are ethnic descriptions. Jewish state (Israel)is a religious description, Theocracy.

  • frosh says:

    Wrong Aussiebattler,

    Israel is essentially ethnocratic, rather than theocratic. It is essenitally akin to many other ethnocracies, such as Greece or Japan.

    Maybe you should spend less time battling Aussies, and more time learning about other countries and cultures.

  • Gregory says:

    Larry,

    Education should be secular, if individual faiths wish to pursue their own education then that should happen with their own money and not that of tax payers.

  • Gregory says:

    Frosh, Ariel,

    While Israel may be a democracy, it is anything but a secular state.

    The CIA World Factbook notes this about the legal system:

    mixture of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and in personal matters Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

    Purely personal matters, marriage and divorce, are all controlled by Jewish religious laws, not secular law.

  • ariel says:

    Gregory,

    Again your ignorance shows.

    Marriage and divorce, etc. are NOT governed by Jewish religious law. Israeli Parliamentary law mandates that an individual be married or divorced according to THAT INDIVIDUAL’s religion, no matter what that religion may be. So a Christian in Isral must be married by their church and Muslims by their mosque (there are plenty of both abound in Israel, unlike in Saudi Arabia). In fact, the quote you site indicates this, yet you ignore it in your concluding sentence!

    Whether one thinks this is a good idea or not is beside the point.
    The fact that your party is ignorant and makes no effort to find out the facts is what is disturbing.

    I would agree that private schools should not have been eligible for the federal stimululs funds for the Julia Gillard Memorial Halls.

    However, it should be noted that a huge number of families who send their children to private schools are struggling to pay the fees as it is (not all live in Point Piper as some will have you believe).

    Gregory, what do you actually think is taught in religious private schools? (I’m guessing your answer will be way off…)

  • Timaahy says:

    ariel,

    I know nothing about law in Israel, but it seems contradictory to claim that Israel is a secular state on the one hand, but “a Christian in Isral must be married by their church and Muslims by their mosque” on the other. In a secular state, shouldn’t marriage be a secular institution? Or at the very least, shouldn’t Christians (for example) have the option of a non-religious ceremony?

    And Frosh… The Jewish people were defined by their religion first. The idea of Jews being a “race” is silly, not only because modern genetics has shown that there is no such thing as “race”, but because it’s merely the self-imposed consequence of intra-faith marriage. Besides, if Judaism is true, we’re all descended from Adam and Eve anyway, so how is the Jewish “race” different from the Gentile “race”?

    Like others who have commented above, I too doubt the claim that “if we could truly separate religion and state, if we could really allow people to live as they like without fear, then the need for CCTV, fencing and guards would disappear”. We’d all like to live in a world without CCTV and guards, but the inherent teachings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam will never allow this to happen.

  • frosh says:

    Timaahy,

    Where did I say Jews are a distinct racial group?

    What I said was that Israel is far more ethnocratic than it is theocratic. Most Jews indentify as Jews based on ethnnicity more so than religion.

    Being Jewish is somewhat akin to being Greek (or, if you prefer, Hellenic). The Greeks have their own religion, but even Greeks who are completely irreligious do not necessarily identify any less as being of greek ethnicity.

    It seems like you have a problem with with your nomenclature. While less relevant, I feel compelled to mention that you also have an infantile understanding of both Jewish religion and genetics, but we’ll leave that for another day.

  • Ariel,

    As I said, Israel is not the main focus of the Secular Party of Australia. We know it’s there, and as always I’m prepared to learn.

    Education in Australia should be secular. As such, there should be no need for religious schools. If you do feel that they are needed, then the cost should be carried by the religious community, not by the tax payer. The secular curriculum should be carried by all educational institutions , and I’m sure that all Jewish schools do follow the current Australian curriculum.

    Just as a side note – in Israel, if you want to get married, and you have no religion, what happens?

  • Gregory,

    What is the Secular party’s policy on government bearing the additional cost of feeding a religious person in prison according to the dietary laws they must observe? As you can see from some of the other discussions on this site, kosher food comes at a cost premium (and probably halal does as well).

  • ariel says:

    Gregory,

    Jewish schools are overwhelmingly funded by student fees and private donations. Any government funding (ignoring for the time being the BER) is a small percentage.

    I may not have been clear before. Most Jewish schools are not “religious” in the Christian sense of the word. Parents send their children there because they want them to be in a particular cultural environment, with children of similar background. Most of the families are not religious and their children don’t emerge from the schools as religious. For them it’s more about ethnic insulation rather than religious.

    So the question is, if you prefer that there be no religious schools, what about ethnocentric schools where children are taught about their culture, heritage and language?

    There is an ongoing discussion in Israel about legislating a civil marriage system for those with “no religion”. One reason the system was originally given to clergy to handle was because back then, virtually nobody living in the country identified as “no religion”; everyone felt they were either Jew, Christian or Muslim.

    So until that internal discussion is resolved, those who want a civil wedding usually hop on a ferry to Cyprus and get married by a magistrate there. Their marriages are recognised in Israel.

  • Yaron says:

    Gregory,
    I feel there are a number of serious misrepresentations of your party that have to be made clear to the readers here.
    In short there are three main areas where I feel the Secular Party prove themselves to be dangerous:

    1) The language – The language on their site does not point towards a friendly discussion, but rather of belittling of anyone who believes in God. The sense of moral superiority that is expressed in this language points to their real goals – the end of religion.

    2) Education – The party are happy for adults to be free to practice religion, but are busy putting up as many barriers to transmitting this lifestyle to the next generation. The want to essentially outlaw the wearing of religious garb in school and prevent all religious education.

    3) Their naivety in their worldview – This is most clearly expressed in their ridiculous proposal for Israel – that there should be one state, and the nations of the world should guarantee the safety of the Jewish residents by agreeing to absorb any Jews who are persecuted. Worked so well 70 years ago.

    I deal with each of these points at length on http://www.sensiblejew.com, but the main point is that the Secular Party are divorced from reality.

    For separation of church and state, Sex Party is more realistic and less hateful.

  • Timaahy says:

    Frosh,

    Apologies… no, you did not say that Jews are a distinct racial group. But my points still stand.

    I don’t think your comparison to Greeks is valid. The Greek people didn’t start by defining themselves on religious grounds, and even if they did, it would have been paganism, not the Greek Orthodox religion I assume you are referring to. Perhaps you could expand a little on exactly

    How do I have a problem with my nomenclature?

    And… I’m sorry… but what in my comment leads you to believe I have an infantile understanding of Judaism and genetics? This is quite an extraordinary claim, given some of your “arguments” in “The Atheist Delusion” (assuming you are the same “frosh”).

  • Sam says:

    Timaahy
    There is an interesting analogy to your postings as part of the Jewish Passover seder. The story is told of the Exodus and very early on we are told that four sons ask their father about why is this night different. One of the sons (the simple one) does not even know how to ask the pertinent questions.
    Maybe you need to get up to speed on a number of issues and then post again.

  • frosh says:

    Tim,

    The Jewish people (as a people) also didn’t start out defining themselves on religious grounds. They are the decedents of Israel, and that is how they defined themselves. Furthermore, it is true that the religion of the Greeks has changed from paganism to their own version of Christianity, but this change took place a long time ago, and it has been over a millennium since Greek paganism. I fail to see how this is relevant.

    Re Nomenclature – I was referring to your apparent confusion between ‘ethnic group’ and biological racial group.

    Statements such as “if Judaism is true…” convey an infantile understanding of Judaism. Judaism is based on a body of texts that do not so much contain singular truths, as they do alternative interpretations and arguments. Furthermore, even as far back as the 12th century, we can see that Maimonides did not espouse your literal interpretation of “Adam and Eve”, so your statement looks rather silly. Anyway, all this is really off the topic.

    More relevant is this: Our conversation demonstrates that it is not always easy for us to distinguish between ethnic elements and religious elements. So how will The Secular Party decide what clothing is ethnic/cultural and thus be permitted, and what is religious and must be banned?
    Or will ethnic clothing be banned also. I guess we will all be wearing a fixed uniform!

  • John August says:

    I see the Secular Party as positive. As a Humanist, I’m interested in the origins of religion. I’ve read “The Bible Unearthed” by Finklestein & Silberman with fascination, and have listened to the lectures of Christine Hayes, Professor of Religious Studies in Classical Judaica at Yale University.

    I’ve attended Unitarian Church services, themselves attended by people with overlaps to progressive Judaism, and heard Unitarian commentaries on religion. A friend has been converting to Judaism; we’ve had some ongoing discussions, and have seen films like “Walk on Water” together.

    I’m interested in religion, not negative about it. I have an interest in, and experience of, Jewish culture. At the same time, though, I’m concerned about the effect of religion on policy. I’m concerned about the Christian dominance. I’m concerned about funding for schools and school chaplains.

    It seems to me our policy is positive and works towards the goals of secularism. You can scrutinise our policy. While I hope I’m making a good effort, of course I’m still learning. You’ll be able push holes in what I say or our policy if you push hard enough. But that will say more about the vigour of your push than anything about Gregory, our policy, or me.

    To characterise our view as being Andrew Bolt – gee I hate that guy ! We fully support climate action – unlike Andrew Bolt. We echo Aayan Hirsi Ali. Our desire is that immigrants respect women and human rights – hardly that mushy paranoid right wing “Australian Values” stuff.

    I contested Wentworth partly because I live here, and partly because Turnbull, the Liberal party and the religious influence on policy are worth challenging – not for any other reasons.

    Our policies emerge from our principles, and our principles are about theocracy. In my letter to Network in Wentworth, I did give support for a “secular solution for Israel, where all people have equal rights”, and our policy is quite clear on our website. We include a few paragraphs on Israel; in the context of an overall policy document I think that’s reasonable – I’m sure we’d get criticism if we had more detail. I’m happy with it, but am open to discussion – I suspect many people would criticise our conclusion regardless of how we came to it.

    Our secular policy is consistent and worthwhile – but I accept that not everyone will agree. It’s out there for people to consider. And I’d only ever want people to vote for something they’re comfortable with.

  • Gregory says:

    David,

    We don’t have a policy on who would bear the cost of dietary requirements.

    I’ll ask about and see what the party thinks, generally, however, I think that if you have specific requirements, because of your religion, then it would be unfair to expect the government to cover the cost. Either have your community provide the funds, or stay out of jail. Jail is after all about having your liberty curtailed.

  • Gregory says:

    Ariel,

    I’m glad that the Jewish schools are looking after themselves. I do note that Michael Danby has an ad in the Jewish News that calls this the “Golden era of Labor Investments in Jewish Schools” and goes on to say how much money he’s managed to get.

    Your question about ethnocentric schools is interesting and needs pondering. Children have a right to learn about their culture, heritage and language, so over all I don’t see that as an issue.

  • Gregory says:

    Yaron,

    I’m aware of your blog and wouldn’t waste my time reading it. Your claim that we are divorced from reality is noted and discounted.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • Gregory says:

    Frosh,

    I find the notion of a separation between cultural Jews and religious Jews quite puzzling. My partner is from a Jewish background, and we have had many long discussions about this. I have a lot of questions, and I’m always very eager to understand and listen, it’s a pity that there can’t be honest and frank discussions. Sometimes too, I feel that Jews are unable to take themselves outside their own experience and view the world from the outside. It’s not just Jews, it’s the Catholics, the Greek Orthodox and the Muslims, to name but a few. When viewed by people not of your faith, your ways, culture and beliefs seems very odd indeed.

    The Secular Party wouldn’t be deciding what is ethnic/cultural clothing. We have a clear policy about people wearing what they like. However, there are some very distinct articles of clothing, a kippah, a cross, a burqa that look fairly religious to me.

  • Yaron says:

    Gregory,

    Simply discounting my views? Whats wrong afraid of a rational discussion? That is supposed to be the bread and butter of your party. You wouldn’t be answering another logical argument with a just because.

    And I am sure the people on this blog would love to hear about the practicality of your plans to make refugees of their Israeli family.

    As for not concerning yourself with what I have written I assume that this holds true for Michael as well, since you seem to be working together for the Secular Party.

    By the way you should tell Lev to change his IP address next time he wants to comment anonymously. Doesn’t look good for a tech head.

  • alex fein says:

    Gregory, perhaps it’s best to avoid the cliches of dishonesty in politics.

    Both you and your partner, Michael Barnett, have commented on Sensible Jew on multiple occasions. Perhaps you wouldn’t waste your time reading, but you certainly have spent considerable time commenting.

    Yaron has raised a number of highly relevant issues which the Secular Party has so far failed to explain. If you seek traction for your party among Jews, you will have to do better than motherhood statements, and [Eds:comment removed following complaint from M.Barnett].

    Say hi to Lev… and any of the other pseudonyms you and Michael are currently using.

  • Gregory says:

    Alex,

    Your comments are not really appropriate and demonstrate the reason why I avoid your blog.

  • Sam says:

    Gregory
    You wrote: “I find the notion of a separation between cultural Jews and religious Jews quite puzzling”.
    Do you think that Jews are either one or the other? Maybe you will understand a Christian example better. The Catholic Archbishop would be a religious Christian, but someone born to the Christian faith but no longer attending church would still identify him/herself as a Christian, say in a census document. What about the huge number in the middle? So it is for all other faiths that I have come in contact with.
    And what is the B–S about the lack of honest and frank discussions. If you ask about our faith in a sincere manner to learn more, you will be given all the information you want and probably some that you didn’t want as well.
    A good starting point is to enquire in a respectful manner, there is a lot you need to learn; and without apriori policy such as “If I was in power I would ban all religious garb”.

  • Avi says:

    We may be starting with a priori statements such as the one about religious garb in schools, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not willing to listen to specific concerns.

    For example, Jewish males want to cover their head. They don’t have to use a kippa to do it. They could use an official school uniform baseball cap or the like. All we’d have to do is override that ridiculous Christian notion that it is rude to wear a hat indoors.

    This would allow people to keep their head covered while not using religious garb. It’s just an idea, but I hope it shows how a meeting of the minds might still be possible.

  • rachsd says:

    Ironically, wearing a head-covering (any head-covering) is a religious requirement for some groups, whereas making that head-covering look like a kippah, hijab, etc., is cultural. So Gregory, when you say that there are some items of clothing that just ‘look’ religious to you, it sounds like you are opposed to the cultural element of the head-covering rather than the religious requirement to cover the head. This sounds as though it is unwitting prejudice against cultures other than your own.

  • Gregory says:

    Sam,

    You paraphrase me “If I was in power I’d ban all religious garb”. That’s simply not true. We have some policies on religious ‘garb’ in schools, and the policy clearly states that people should be free to wear what they like.

    When I say I’m puzzled about secular and religious Jews, I didn’t mean I didn’t understand, my question is more along the lines of if you don’t believe in the religious side of it, why do you continue to observe the rules? What’s the point? That’s what puzzles me.

    A good starting point is to enquire in a respectful manner, there is a lot you need to learn; and without apriori policy such as “They want to ban all religion”.

  • Gregory says:

    rachsd,

    Perhaps you need to read it again. I’m not opposed to cultural clothing, people are entitled to wear what they like. They need to be free to wear what they like.

    This discussion on clothing is interesting, but fairly fruitless as you continue to ignore the fact that the policy is about school children and what is appropriate clothing in an education system funded by a secular government.

  • rachsd says:

    Gregory,

    I’m not ignoring the fact that you are talking about school children. I believe that children, like adults, should have the right to wear religiously and culturally appropriate clothing of their choosing. The secular government isn’t being asked to buy the clothing. Apart from this policy being prejudiced (even if this prejudice is unwitting as I believe it is), and unfair to children from cultural backgrounds other than anglo-Australian, it also seems from your latest comment only to apply to government-funded schools. If that is the case, this would mean forcing children and families who want to wear such clothing into private religious schools – what a strange policy coming from the secular party!

  • not from caulfied says:

    Greg

    I am a scientist and a secularist first, as well as a so-called “cultural jew”. I am therefore sympathetic to many of your party’s views, (yet emphasise I would always promote tolerance of others religious practices, such as head-dress wearing, the st ives eruv etc).

    I’d like to explain to you why it is, BECAUSE I am a secular jew, that I believe very strongly in two states in Palestine/Israel. I am extremely proud of my history and culture, including but not limited to, its language, music, and arts, and the role of individual jewish thinkers in science, the arts, and philosophy, and its charitable value system.

    It is this “cultural” side that I would like to pass on to my children. I was exposed to this heritage through my East-European grandparents, who are gone now. My children will never have that in Australia. Further, because I have voluntarily distanced myself from the religious dimension, I cant pass this aspect of Judaism on either. For example, I would never consider teaching my children to resolve a human rights issue in 2010, such as gay marriage, by referencing a biblical text or an online rabbi (a reference, to a previous heated Galus thread).

    It is for this reason, that I feel my real connection to Jewish culture remains through its ongoing life in the state of Israel – where Jews can be secular, traditional, orthodox, whatever, without having their Jewish identity questioned (as my own has been here). A single secular state without a majority Hebrew/Jewish culture would mean my children would have nothing “live” from their past and culture to connect with. It is SO difficult to straddle true secularism with a “cultural” jewish side in Australia for more than 1 or 2 generations. While I accept Jewish culture exists in the Diaspora, it is simply not the same (for a range of reasons – eg language, predominance of Australian culture etc).

    It is for this reason that I would never support one secular state in Israel, without a Jewish majority. Sorry for the long post!

  • Gregory says:

    Thanks ‘not from caulfield’ The long post was worth the read.

  • not from caulfied says:

    Just a further argument in support of two states, again using secular discourse: Many scientists believe that biodiversity is essential for maintaining the health of our ecosystems,and the prevalence of agricultural monocultures has left our food security exposed. An extension to this position is that it benefits a sort of human ecosystem to preserve a diversity of cultures and languages. While I support a secular position and the right of all children to a secular education, it is not prima facie inconsistent with a secular, scientific perspective that it is to our collective detriment when we lose minority languages and cultures to more powerful majority cultures (think of the 100s of indigenous languages we have lost here in Australia since colonization). We now know that there is much indigenous knowledge about the Australian environment encapsulated in these lost languages and cultures that cant be recovered. Scientist Tim Flannery laments this loss, in his book The Future Eaters.

    This scientific reasoning, is of course, distinct from human rights based reasoning which would support individuals right to practice and preserve culture (I am sure its in some Charter, somewhere), regardless of any collective benefit.

    I haven’t completely resolved this issue for myself (and am no expert – just someone wasting work hours). I just wish to point out (again) that a secular humanist, science-based viewpoint can be consistent with support for a state aimed at preserving Jewish (or any other) culture, and there may be scope for The Secular Party to reconsider their position on the Israel/Palestine question in a more thorough manner than I am able to do. Thanks for providing an alternative.

  • Avi Chapman says:

    Well put. You’ve got me thinking about two secular states side by side.

  • A lot of people are concerned that the Secular Party is harmful to the Jewish community, to the Jewish religion, to Israel and Jewish life in general.

    More of a threat to the Jewish community, to the Jewish religion, to Israel and Jewish life in general is Michael Danby, member for Melbourne Ports.

    Michael Danby has blissfully ignored the vile AJN Watch web site that posted hateful material about gay Jews, about Israel, about homosexuality and about me.

    Michael Danby has done nothing to address this hate and intolerance and continues to do nothing.

    If you think the Secular Party is a threat, reelecting Michael Danby is by far a worse threat. He acts as if there is no problem in our society, in our community.

    I have written a blog about Michael Danby and why reelecting him is bad for the Jewish community, despite everything he tells you. Read it <a href="http://mikeybear.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/danby-silent-on-anti-israel-anti-gay-extremist-jewish-filth-web-site/"here.

    You make up your own mind and decide if the Secular Party is more of a threat than Michael Danby and the Labor Party.

    Michael.

  • Michael B,

    I’m disappointed it took you this long to bring in a gay angle on these election discussions. Unfortunately, not even the all-powerful, all-knowing, blissfully ignorant Michael Danby can do anythung about an anonymous, inflammatory blog like AJNWatch.

  • He can at least speak out against the hate, but he chooses silence.

    The gay vote is important to Danby. His ads in the gay press probably cost as much as what the AJN charges.

    Did you know Danby will push for marriage equality for gay people if he is reelected? He is on the record for saying it last Tuesday.

  • Aussiebattler. says:

    Ariel. On the subject of marriage in Israel/Ultra Orthodox Judaism, could you please explain the term “mamzerim,” and why children of mamzerim are considered to be “illegitimate?”

  • ariel says:

    Aussiebattler,

    As far as I know, a mamzer is someone born to a married woman as the result of illicit relations with a man other than her husband.

    If you want more information pertaining to your particular question, I suggest you contact your local Orthodox Rabbi.

  • frosh says:

    Michael B,

    I’m somewhat confused by your comments

    Why would you assume that Danby has even heard of AJNwatch?

    And even if he has, is he in the habit of commenting on every blog out there?

    You also write that Danby has stated that he “will push for marriage equality for gay people if he is reelected” but then you still inexplicably conclude he is anti-gay.

  • Frosh, have you read my blog? It answers both of your questions.

  • FYI, Michael Danby has taken out glossy full-colour page 2 adverts in the Southern Star Observer newspaper on August 5 and August 12. Clearly he’s prepared to spend big bucks to get the gay vote, but he offer precious little in return.

  • ariel says:

    Michael,
    in that case, I suggest you vote for Sandy Gutman and the Sex Party. It seems that’s all that’s ever on your mind and they seem to offer you what you want…

  • Thank you for reminding me of the Australian Sex Party Ariel. The Australian Sex Party is a genuine political party that takes human rights seriously. Contrary to your puerile suggestion, it is not about sex, in the way you suggest.

    For those who want to know, the Sex Party policy page coverss the following areas:

    – Censorship
    – Education
    – Equality
    – Health
    – Protection of Children
    – Workplace Relations
    – Religion / Ethical Issues
    – Drugs
    – Euthanasia
    – Abortion

    As you can see, range of issues is reasonably diverse.

    The Secular Party of Australia’s policies also cover a diverse range of issues, as outlined on their policy page:

    – Education
    – Religion in schools
    – Tax exemptions for religion
    – Oaths and prayers
    – Parliamentary prayers
    – Citizenship pledge
    – Food labelling for religious purposes
    – Complementary and alternative medicines
    – Marriage
    – Personal freedoms
    – Civil rights
    – Women’s rights
    – Religious attire
    – Anti-discrimination laws
    – One law for all
    – Religious organisations and public health
    – Censorship
    – Economic policy
    – Resource rent tax
    – Republic
    – Defence
    – International law
    – International secularism
    – Israel-Palestine
    – Global warming
    – Law and order
    – Medical research
    – Health
    – Intellectual property
    – Welfare
    – Children
    – Immigration and population

    Unlike you, I don’t live in Sydney. I also don’t have a Sex Party candidate running in my electorate. Thanks for that suggestion though.

    I would have liked to engage in some intelligent debate in this discussion, but again, that would be setting my expectations too high for this forum.

  • Gremlin says:

    Michael thanks for pointing out ajnwatch. it’s a great site with very entertaining posts. And it didn’t seem to be attacking gays just for the heck of it. Like most of us ajnwatch is sick of your constant whining.

    Go there and you’ll see plenty of interesting stuff – admittedly from the POV of a very orthodox writer

  • ariel says:

    I would have voted for the Sex Party above Secular if they were on my ballot.
    At least they don’t believe they know everything about everything…

    And with Sandy G on board, they’d probably have a decent Israel policy!

  • Ariel,

    The Sex Party does not seem to have a policy on Israel at present. I would say that Israel and Middle East politics are not a priority to the Sex Party.

    The Sex Party supports the removal of discrimination against gay and lesbian Australians and supports same-sex marriage. The Secular Party also supports this removal of discrimination. The Liberal Party and the Labor Party do not support removal of discrimination against same-sex couples and are happy to continue treating us as second-class citizens. I don’t know if you understand what persecution is Ariel.

    As a candidate for the Sex Party Sandy Gutman believes in these values. It reassures me that you would put your support in a person who supports full equality for homosexuals.

  • ariel says:

    Michael,

    Regarding your first paragraph, my response is “EXACTLY!!”

    As to your second paragraph, please don’t be patronising; it’s not easy being a Jew in this world…

    But yes, I agree that any discrimination in the law must be corrected. Everyone should be allowed the same financial, health and other benefits as everyone else in a relationship no matter their gender.
    A colleague of mine told me has two older uncles – brothers – who have always been bachelors and for some time have lived together and are dependent on each other. Until recently, they were not allowed to register as an interdependent couple with medicare and the ATO because they’re of the same gender. So what if they’re not brothers and just two good mates? Or two men in love? I don’t think it’s anyone’s business and they should be treated equally by a government of Australia.

    On an interesting note, I think our current (caretaker?) PM is strange. She claims to be an atheist, but is against gay marriage. For what reason? At least Abbott says it’s because of his relgious beliefs…what’s her reason?
    (And why does she often say “thank the lord”?…)

  • So we share common ground on a number of human rights issues then Ariel?

    You agree that the Australian government should remove all discrimination against it’s citizens.

    You agree that all people in relationships should be treated equally.

    You don’t enjoy persecution.

    But, what are you doing to help address this odious situation?

    If you vote for a major party that doesn’t place a priority on human rights, such as Labor or Liberal, you send them the message you agree with their policies.

    If you vote for a minor party with policies that resonate with your feelings on human rights then you send the majors a message that they must get with the times. They still end up in government, but they get there with a clearer understanding on what the people they are in power to represent actually want.

    I believe we should place a priority our own community. If we don’t look after ourselves, there’s no point in trying to look after others.

    Michael.

  • ariel says:

    I’m more concerned about fixing our health and education systems and pulling Aborignal lives up to the national average. As well as reducing pollution so my kids don’t grow up with asthma and looking at grey skies…

  • Why are you more concerned about the welfare of indigenous Australians than the rights of all Australians? Your children may suffer because you placed a higher priority on someone else’s children’s welfare.

  • ariel says:

    Michael, methinks you need to get your vision prescription updated.

    I want our education system fixed, FOR MY CHILDREN
    I want our health system fixed, FOR EVERYONE
    I want our Aboriginal population to have the same health and education opportunities as you and I did/do.

  • Statistically your children each have about a 10% chance of being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Will you be happy for them to live as second-class citizens (if you don’t force them to repress an undesired sexuality)?

  • Timaahy says:

    Frosh,

    I’ll edit your sentence for you:

    “Judaism is based on a body of texts that do not … contain … truths.”

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. :-)

    I don’t think I even know any Jews, or at least, no one I know is open about their Judaism. I made an assumption that “Judaism” is as much of a religion as it is an ethnic group, but if you tell me that most Jews define themselves on ethnic, rather than religious, grounds, I am happy to defer to your experience and leave the conversation with a slightly better understanding of Judaism.

    “Maimonides did not espouse your literal interpretation of ‘Adam and Eve’”. I’m very happy to hear that. It only took 1400-odd years…? And it’s not “my” literal interpretation, is it?

    “so your statement looks rather silly.” No, the story of Adam and Eve looks silly. Is there a consensus among Jews that the story of Adam and Eve should not be taken literally? Or is it similar to Christianity, where both views (literal and allegorical) are not uncommon?

    “Our conversation demonstrates that it is not always easy for us to distinguish between ethnic elements and religious elements”. Agreed. Is not eating pork a religious or ethnic element? What about not working on the Sabbath? What about not being able to push a pram on the Sabbath unless inside an eruv? Do people follow these rules for cultural or religious reasons? If cultural, are people shunned or ostracised for not following them? I’m not being facetious, I am genuinely curious.

  • Timaahy says:

    Sam,

    Thanks for your “interesting” story.

    I’m curious though… what do you think of Scientology, Mormonism, homeopathy, and astrology?

    Tim

  • Sam says:

    Timaahy
    Answering your question in order: SCIENTOLOGY- money making cult; MORMONISM- they are fine if they do not bother others, doesn’t mean that others have to share their beliefs and values: HOMEOPATHY- useless and probably dangerous if it causes you abandon conventional medical practice; ASTROLOGY- you might be able to work it out yourself by now. What is the connection to what we were discussing previously?

  • Seems Danby’s had been spending up big with the gay print media for a little longer than I realised in the lead-up to yesterday’s election. I just stumbled across another page 2 full-page colour advertisement of his in the June 24 edition of Southern Star. You can see it >> here <<.

  • PS. If you check the corner of the adverstisement you’ll notice:

    This material has been produced at Australian Government expense by Michael Danby

    I’m sure there are plenty in the Jewish community who would reconsider their support for him if they knew he spent their tax dollars in the gay print media.

  • frosh says:

    Michael, I very much doubt it.
    What research are you basing this on?

  • Frosh, what do you doubt and what research am I basing what on?

  • Frosh, going back through the conversation I suspect you’re referring to comment 13202. If you mean something else, kindly advise.

    This story appearing in The Age on April 9 2010: Young, gay and caught in a conspiracy of silence. It’s reference to Dr Lynne Hillier’s research is relevant:

    The research also confirms that about 10 per cent of young people experience feelings of sexual attraction towards people of the same sex, translating to three students in each class of 30.

    The issue is more complex than this however, but it’s a good starting point for getting an idea of the size of the issue generally. Bringing it into the Jewish context the problems amplify due to zero tolerance in certain quarters. My previous contributions to your site will be a good source of verifiable and relevant information on the topic.

    Michael.

  • frosh says:

    Michael,

    I was referring to this statement of yours:

    “I’m sure there are plenty in the Jewish community who would reconsider their support for him if they knew he spent their tax dollars in the gay print media.”

  • Ha ha. Don’t you read the comments on your blog?

    Check out the comment by “George Washington” on your “Liberals and Greens” blog and follow the two links there, paying particular attention to the comments. I’m sure that’s a decent barometer of the sentiment.

    Michael.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Michael,

    I would not take the comments of a small number of (particularly anonymous) commenters as even the least bit representative of the Jewish community.

    I mix with a wide range of Jews who live in Melbourne Ports, and I doubt I know anyone who would withdraw their vote for that reason.

    There may be a very small number of Jews who would be bothered by their parliamentary representative advertising in the gay press (can you name any?), but I doubt they vote for Danby anyway.

  • Not all the comments were anonymous. Some used real names. I was just referring to that conversation which reflects some version of reality. I can tell you there was no love lost in that conversation for the either Danby or Ekendahl because of their gay connections.

    In the more intolerant sections of the Jewish community, homosexuality is considered a disease and garners no supporters.

    I don’t really want to dwell on this particular angle because it’s off topic.

    What is interesting to consider regarding Danby’s support for the Jewish community and the amount of emphasis he places on protecting the Jewish community from threats (what exact threats I don’t think anyone is sure), is that he offers no support to protecting the gay community from anti-gay violence, which is a very real threat.

  • Prince DuGalles says:

    Good morning,
    Before I start, I would like to say that I have a high respect towards the Jewish community even though I know that Jesus is the Messiah that you are still waiting for to come, was once here, being made a curse for us, was crucified, died for us and rose from the dead.

    However, I am a non denominational Christian who hates religion.
    Here is why:
    Religion distorts God’s truth by setting man to focus his faith on the materialistic needs and not on God. Its a legal system that can be molded to justify an individual’s selfish needs. (Example: Henry VIII vs Vatican).
    I can only compare it to a kid’s clubhouse” that set their own rules of membership. Its down-right idiotic and dangerous. It is legalistic, twisting God’s word and deceiving people to feel that they are saved by doing good deeds when on the contrary, God looks at the heart.

    If you really want to separate Church and State, then place God above Church and State and a set of definitions first in your constitution or have the Queen proclaim the following definitions as part your government’s legal system:

    GOD’s TRUTH: “The ultimate form of reality”.

    RELIGION:”A socially accepted belief system that is based on a given political structure to ensure control over a given populated region to access power and financial profits under a conditional trust relationship that employs the use of misinformation of events and concepts by means of oppression, a creed and a plan of salvation by applying the use of idolic worship as an individual safeguard as a socialistic symbol of authority, thus prompting man to establish a social behavior based on fear”.

    BELIEFS: “A system is a set of philosophical concepts that are established within a group of individuals in order to create a social pattern of behavior that eventually leads to the formation of a religion as population increases”.

    FAITH: “Is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see”. Fear is negative faith. Faith cannot be defined as a religion!

    CHURCH: “The location on where an individual exercises His/Her freedom to worship God or his/her definition of a god in accordance to their beliefs”.

    STATE: Government. A social institution with means to establish a proper way to manage, protect and defend a given community for survival.

    To me this sums up the definitions of God’s truth, religion, beliefs, faith, church and state in the most abstract sense possible. Every religion on his planet believes that He/She can get to Heaven by “good deeds” or as a “good person”. Wrong! Its through faith. Not ritual or tradition. Christ Jesus warned the Jewish population at that time the dangers of being legalistic but failed to listen, because their legalistic doctrine did not give them the chance to evaluate the freedom Christ wanted to share with all of them.

    What about Atheist are they a religion? Yes, they are.
    They are an anti-religion-religion. Atheist rebels against religion because it goes against their own set of rules and concepts on how they should live, making the excuse to live a selfish life by saying that God does not exist. It is the worship of self.

    In other words, their main excuse for not believing in God is due to their own sexual promiscuity. No bars held…free for all or any way they want it. But its spiritual impact and its consequences can be read in the Bible and since the Jewish religion has what I can refer to as the “Old Testament”, then I would advise reading Deut. 28-30, Proverbs 4 and 5, concerning the results of sexual promiscuity regardless of gender and of it being Hetero or homosexual.

    I am curious and also sorry to see that there is so much squabble over petty rules, when all of you have the Most High God available 24/7 at your side just waiting for you to permit Him to operate in each of your lives.

    My last question is: Do you love religion or do you love God?
    Which would you choose?

    May God’s peace and His grace be upon all of you.

    PD

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